The Federal High Court sitting in Lagos State has fixed March 30 for its ruling on various applications challenging the order restraining the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Seplat Energy Plc, Roger Brown, from parading himself as the CEO of the company.
Justice Chukwujekwu Aneke fixed the date on Thursday after entertaining arguments from counsel to the respondents, on the applications seeking to vacate the ex-parte order earlier granted by the court and to strike out the suit.
On March 8, the court had restrained Roger from parading himself as the company’s CEO pending the determination of a suit instituted against him and others by some aggrieved stakeholders of the company.
The shareholders had, in their suit filed by their lawyer, Jeph C Njikonye, SAN, accused the foreigner of racism, favouring of expatriate workers, discrimination against Nigerians, and breach of good governance.
The aggrieved stakeholders who are petitioners/applicants in the suit are Moses Igbrude, Sarat Kudaisi, Kenneth Nnabike, Ajani Abidoye, and Robert Ibekwe while Seplat Energy Plc, Roger Thompson Brown, and Basil Omiyi were listed as respondents in the matter.
In a separate ex-parte application, Justice Aneke also granted the petitioners leave to serve the petition, the order of the court, and all other processes to be issued subsequently in the matter on Brown and Omiyi by pasting in the premises of Seplat Energy located in the Ikoyi area of the state.
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At the proceedings today, counsel to the petitioners, Njikonye informed the judge that there are several applications before the court and that his application for an interlocutory injunction for joinder should be heard before applications seeking to discharge the ex parte order made by the court.
The lawyer also submitted that by the nature of the suit and by Order 29 Rule 1A of the Federal High Court (Civil Procedure) Rules, the application for joinder takes preeminence above other applications.
But counsel to the first respondent, Bode Olanipekun (SAN), opposed the application arguing that the ex-parte order granted by the court affected many other people who are not parties before the court.
Olanipekun maintained that those who are not parties have come to challenge the order and so the application for joinder was not ripe for hearing.
Counsel to the other respondents aligned themselves with Olanipekun’s submission, and they also asked the court to hear the application for setting aside the ex parte order made on March 8, 2023.
In a short ruling, Justice Aneke, held that the application for interlocutory injunction was not ripe for hearing; he, therefore, called on lawyers to the respondents to move their applications, before subsequently fixing his ruling for March 30.
The shareholders had, in their Motion on Notice filed by their lawyer, Jeph Njikonye (SAN), urged the court for a declaration that the affairs of Seplat have been conducted in a manner that is illegal, oppressive and unfairly prejudicial to the petitioners and other members of Seplat and in total disregard to the interest of the petitioners, other employees, and Seplat as a whole.
The applicants had also urged the court for a declaration that by condoning the unlawful, discriminatory, and abusive conduct of the CEO, Roger Brown, the Board Chairman, Basil Omiyi, and the Non-executive Directors have “failed in the discharge of their duties and are unfit to continue to function in the Board of Directors of the first respondent (Seplat).
They further asked the court for an order of mandatory injunction restraining the second respondent (Brown) from parading himself as or continuing to operate as the CEO of the first Respondent (Seplat) or working for Seplat in any other capacity.
The applicants also want the court to grant an order restraining Seplat and the Board Chairman from retaining Brown as the CEO of Seplat or retaining his services for Seplat in another capacity.
In support of their case, the aggrieved stakeholders exhibited a petition to the Minister of Interior against Brown by employees of Seplat, as well as a letter by the Minister of Interior communicating the Ministry’s decision on the said petition to the company.
In the March 3, 2023 letter addressed to the Board Chairman of Seplat Energy PLC signed by one Akinola Adesina for the Honourable Minister, which was marked as Exhibit B, the Ministry of Interior had conveyed the revocation of Roger Brown’s Work Permit, Visa, and Residence Permit.
The letter read: “I write to inform you that the Ministry receives a petition from the Solicitor to the concerned workers and stakeholders of Seplat Energy PLC accusing Mr Rogers Thomson Brown, the CEO of the company, of various allegations.
“These accusations include racism, favouring foreign workers and discriminating against Nigerian employees. Testimony was received from several witnesses, which supported the allegations. Mr Roger T. Brown declined to attend despite two invitations, claiming to be unavailable even though we learnt he was in Abuja for other purposes.
“Investigation and records in the Ministry also revealed that Mr Roger Brown had CERPAC that was not based on validly issued Expatriate Quota approved by the Ministry of Interior, violating relevant Immigration Laws and Regulations. As a result, the Honourable Minister has determined that Mr Brown’s continued stay in Nigeria contradicts the national interest.
“Consequently, the Ministry has withdrawn the Work Permit CERPAC, Visa, Residence Permit and all relevant documents tauthorisedized Mr Roger Thomson Brown’s entry stayed in Nigeria,” the letter stated.